As Ireland’s coasts remain our number one staycation go-to, we’re becoming increasingly keen as travel consumers to angle alternative options for our holiday. And if we weren't blessed with such a spectacular coastline here in Ireland, we’d surely be veering beyond the seaboards in our holidaying habits. Journey inland towards our so-called 'Hidden Heartlands' and you’ll discover some of the most unspoiled waterways in Europe to find your freshwater fix — just ask the legions of Germans, Swiss and Dutch who (used to) throng here each year. But now, from the Shannon region to the Fermanagh Lakelands, Ireland’s blissful blueways are starting to glimmer for the home market too. Could an Irish lakecation be the top location for a staycation?
“Do you know that feeling you have when you wake up after a snowfall, and the landscape is white, undisturbed, and you are the first to leave footprints? Well, that's it! That's pretty much the feeling you get when you visit Ireland's lakelands!” explains Sinead Calahan, marketing officer of Discover Lough Derg.
“I think the appeal is in the stillness and the calmness of the region — or maybe the different perspective of the island we know so well,” she adds. Lough Derg is indeed the posterchild for a stunning lakeland region, right on our doorstep in Muster, but so often bypassed as we journey further West. The fact that it shares its name with the pilgrimage site in Donegal, seems to dilute its marketing appeal somewhat but Lough Derg is just one Lakeland region which deserves to be more of a national treasure and less of a tourism backwater.
Ireland is indeed spoiled for lakeside holiday options, with blue flag beaches, postcard abandoned jetties to discover, and stunning swan lake scenes, straight from a Children of Lír legend. Oh, and there are some pretty great accommodation options too. For your inspiration, I’ve sourced five lakeside properties with all rates based on a couple staying on a B&B basis this July. Consider diving in!
If you’ve not been to Lough Derg already, this summer could be (or should be!) the year to visit. I stayed in Killaloe-Ballina’s excellent Lakeside Hotel last winter, overnighting in one of their great value family rooms. But for an upgrade, book into their luxury new Waterfront suites, which all overlook the lakeshore. Killaloe-Ballina itself makes a great base with great food options (note Tuscany Bistro and the Wooden Spoon Café) and endless natural attractions surrounding the lake's 180km shoreline. B&B from €130 per night while their Summer Sizzler deal offers three nights' B&B, with two evening meals and a Lough Derg cruise, from €469. lakesidehotel.ie
Could Wineport Lodge be Ireland's most popular lakeside property? The hotel gained a national platform from the TV show The Restaurant but today it seems to have evolved into one of the hottest hotel spots on Irish social media, thanks to footage of its iconic sunsets and swish surrounds. It’s easy to be wowed. The boutique bolthole features gorgeous lakeside rooms, a great spa featuring outdoor hot tubs, and that sensitive lodge architecture, which wouldn’t be out of place in the Canadian wilds, really delivers that much sought-after sense of escape. Summer B&B rates from €300 reflect that popularity. wineport.ie.
For another option around Lough Ree, check out Glasson Lakehouse which has B&B rates from €209 per night. glassonlakehouse.ie
Ever thought of Leitrim as a destination for a little luxury?
Perhaps best known for hosting the wedding of BOD and Amy Huberman, Lough Rynn Castle (set upon the lake of the same name) still remains a lesser-known escape, nestled in the Shannon’s hinterland. Relax in the castle’s stately surrounds, enjoy lazy lakeside walks, or explore nearby attractions from The Shed, a quirky gin distillery in Drumshanbo, to the natural amenities of The Shannon Blueway. Note when booking that some rooms are located in the converted estate manager’s homestead away from the main castle. Good luxury value here from €166 per night. loughrynn.ie
Trendy properties such as Cabu are putting Cavan — Ireland’s very own lake county — rightly on the map. But for an alternative accommodation option, why not consider a stay at historic Crover House? The 18th-century country estate on the banks of Lough Sheelin offers a great-value four-star option for guests seeking a more hidden getaway. On-site, you can tee-off with a round of golf or enjoy the lovely woodland, gardens and lakeside walkways.
But don’t forget Cavan features 364 other lakes to explore too and Lough Oughter, famed for its island castle, is one Ireland’s true kayaking heavens. From €103 B&B with €113 upgrading you to a lakeview room. croverhouse.ie
Lough Neagh may be the largest lake across Ireland (and even Britain) but it seems massively unharnessed as a tourism attraction. All the better reason for a getaway on its shores, then. If you’re looking for a self-catering option for a family or group of friends, freshly-decorated Waterfoot Cottage on the Derry shores of the lough, is testimony to Northern Ireland's top notch self-catering options. The three-bedroom cottage makes the ideal base to explore everywhere from Belfast to the Antrim Coast — or just cozy up with its idyllic rustic charm. From €670 per week (sleeps six). waterfootcottage.co.uk